January 17 – May 18, 2014
In the spring of 2014 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will exhibit the work of Indigenous Australian Nici Cumpston, a Barkindji artist and curator from Adelaide.
having-been-there is a series of images created by Cumpston to document the evidence of Aboriginal occupation in Australia before European settlement. Tree engravings, ring trees, and remnants of stone tools abound in Barkindji land. These act as subtle signifiers of the ancestors that once lived in and created the country, and of food and water sources that ensured survival. They also serve as undeniable proof of Aboriginal people “having been there,” before and amidst the colonial assertion of terra nullius, the idea that Australia was a “land without people.” Additionally they are records of the Murray-Darling Basin river system’s natural beauty, as well as its gradual destruction from pollution, salination, and re-routing.